Writer of Horror Fiction

Latest

Cover Art and Final Contributor’s List for “At Hell’s Gates: Bound By Blood” released!

I’m happy to announce that the third installment of the At Hell’s Gates anthology series has revealed the final list of contributors and the finalized cover art.  Sticking with the cover design style started with the first book, Bound By Blood is a different color but has the same compelling imagery.

The theme of Bound By Blood means that the stories that appear in this book are all about family. Here is an informal description of what to expect on these pages: There is no greater bond, especially in times of great fear, than that between mother and fathers, sons and daughters.  The third AT HELL’S GATES anthology will focus on parents and children.  The power of the parental bond is demonstrated as Rick Grimes is reunited with his son Carl in the middle of the zompocalypse or Grendel and his mother terrorize the mead hall in tandem.  It is even perverted when Jack Torrance turns on his family in the Overlook Hotel.

My short story, “Little Lost Lamb” is my contribution to this work.  Originally scheduled to be a part of another anthology for a book that ended up not getting published, I am thrilled this twisted piece of love (and hate), family style, has found a home.  I am quite proud to be a part of this book, mainly because the proceeds are, as they have been with the previous works, being donated to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.  You can find out more about this great cause here: http://athellsgates.com/our-cause/.

I don’t have a link to buy this book just yet, but stay tuned.  Once it is available, I will share the link over on my Bio and About Me pages-just click on the cover art.  For now, check out the impressive list of contributors and the awesome cover art below.

AHG3 is scheduled to release July 31st, 2015.

Returning Authors:
Shana Festa
Devan Sagliani
Sharon Stevenson
Stephen Kozeniewski
Lesa Kinney Anders
Stevie Kopas
Tim Marquitz
Sean T. Smith
Curran Geist
Paul Mannering
TM Caldwell
C.T. Phipps
S.G. Lee

New Authors:
Timothy W. Long
Chris Philbrook
Sarah Lyons Fleming
M. Lauryl Lewis
Douglas Draa
RJ Kennett
Christine Morgan
Kerry Alan Denney
Mikhail Lerma
Suzanne Robb
Brian W. Taylor
David Sakmyster
Patrick D’Orazio
Terry Maggert
S. P. Durnin

Other Contributors:
Formatting: Kindra Sowder, Burning Willow Press
Cover Art: Artwork by Martin de Diego Sadabo. Cover design by J.M. Martin. PoD Formatting: Alan MacRaffen
Editors: Dane Hatchell, Terri King, S. Kay Nash

AHG3-COVER

At Hell’s Gates: Bound By Blood

Review of Patrick James Ryan’s “The Night It Got Out”

The Night It Got Out is the first full length tale from author Patrick James Ryan, who previously wrote Blood Verse, a compendium of horror influenced short stories and poems.  He dives into the equivalent of the classic B-Grade monster movie here with zeal, telling parallel accounts of a virtually unstoppable creature whose only purpose is to kill anyone and everyone who stands in its way.

Don Girard is the police chief of Magnus Pass, the town where a cargo truck carrying the imprisoned beast crashes, freeing it to go on a rampage of blood, guts, and utter chaos.  Once the beast is freed, the government rushes in, with retired Green Beret Colonel Elliot Harmon leading the charge to kill or capture the beast.

Through flashback, we learn of Harmon’s unique relationship with the beast and the covert operations that created this genetically mutated killing machine.  Though the police chief and Green Beret combine forces in an effort to stop the monster, it’s clear that neither trusts the other, and the motivations of each might be at crossed purposes.

This book moves quickly, shifting from one killing field to the next.  From the cover of the book, the beast looks almost like a werewolf or something similar, but the way it’s described makes it more of an amalgam of various predators, including man, with razor sharp claws and teeth, plus incredible strength and speed.  It is intelligent, cunning, and hunts humans out of hatred as well as a food source.  Though there may have been some possibility of sympathy for this beast that has been manipulated and imprisoned by men its entire life, it was hard for me, as a reader, to see past its desire for unlimited slaughter to perhaps try and understand what it has been forced to become.

Since things move at such a rapid pace with this fairly short book, the reader’s relationships with both Girard and Harmon are rather clipped and terse, much like the relationship these two men share with one another.  The bulk of the other characters and what we get to know about them serve only to migrate us from one scene of blood drenched death to another, just like classic monster movies do.  We are given very brief glimpses into the lives of the creature’s victims, typically just before they are gone in a blink of an eye; eviscerated, decapitated, and devoured.

Of course, with the government involved, there is a subplot of secret government experiments and diabolical plots revolving the use of such an ultimate killing machine, but it is heavily overshadowed by the gore splattered action that crosses almost every page.

Overall, this is a fun, over the top gore fest.  Readers looking for more subtle horror would probably be more inclined to read the author’s other book.  Because The Night It Got Out splashes you in the face with buckets of blood, meat, and bones from start to finish.

The author continues to hone his craft with his second book and has done a bang up job with vivid descriptions with this story.  I did, however, find it hard to make an emotional investment in either main character, Girard or Harmon.  Perhaps it was the quick pace of the story and the limited time to get to know either of them, but I wasn’t drawn to either and found it hard to care what fate had in store for them.  With that said, that isn’t a major stumbling block with this type of fast paced, vicious horror tale.  Instead, just prepare to strap in and ride this gnarly carnage coaster until the end.

The Night It Got Out can be found here:     http://www.amazon.com/Night-Got-Patrick-James-Ryan/dp/0692329781/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1434824559

Review of Eloise J. Knapp’s “The Undead Ruins”

The Undead Ruins doesn’t pick up immediately after the second book in the trilogy, The Undead Haze, but about a decade after the start of the zombie apocalypse and years after Cyrus reconnected with Blaze near the end of the previous book.  They have spent the past few years working for the leader of three rebuilt towns as mercenaries for hire, doing the tough jobs no one else wants, including executing those who have disobeyed the laws about hiding undead family members.  As has always been the case, Blaze and Cyrus are aloof, not befriending many of the people they now interact with except for a select few that have a military background like Blaze.  She still has every intention of finding her lost brother, the brother that Cyrus knows about and has kept secrets about since the events that took place in the prior novel.  That isn’t the only secret he’s keeping from Blaze-secrets if revealed might mean his death at the hands of his closest companion.

At the start of this trilogy, Cyrus V. Sinclair proclaimed himself a sociopath.  Much of the frustration with the author from the bulk of reviews I have seen have been with this proclamation.  Either he is not a textbook definition of a sociopath or he softens in the second book to the point where even Cyrus is no longer sure what he is anymore.  Whatever he truly is, since all three of these books were written in first person, we have only the narcissistic and egotistical Cyrus to rely on for his diagnosis.  It would be fair to say that Cyrus liked the idea of being a sociopath and indeed has some of those tendencies, though even he had to acknowledge he has transformed into something else by the time the events of this book take place.  Blaze, Cyrus’s companion and sometimes nemesis, is perhaps closer in definition to a sociopath, although the love she shows for her brother puts a chink in her armor with that designation. More important, Blaze would be unlikely to care what someone labels her.  She is what the world has made her.

Things start out fairly calm at the beginning of this book, with Blaze and Cyrus dealing with grunt work no one else wants to do.  They aren’t necessarily popular with most of the town folk due to the roles they take on, but they are needed and appreciated by the leadership.  Unfortunately, with an attack on one of the towns, there are hints that the crazies they thought had faded into history have returned, stronger than ever and with a new and even more vicious leader.  With this new turmoil comes the possibility that the lies that Cyrus has been telling Blaze to keep the peace between them will be revealed.

It is interesting how the voice of Cyrus has changed during the course of these books.  A smug, unrepentant loner when we first meet him, he still remains aloof but has transformed in many ways.  He still loathes cowardice and weakness, but has gained a respect for those who fight to survive and the necessity of civilization, even if aspects of it make him nauseous.  The relationship between him and Blaze has gotten more complicated.  They are not lovers, but soldiers who have been through wars together.  They would fight and die for one another but at the same time it seems clear that one would kill the other if it suited their needs.

Overall, this has been an entertaining trilogy.  The main character made a proclamation about himself early on that does not play out as he expected.  If it had, this story would have run the risk of predictability.  A criticism I had for the first book came back to haunt this one when the author slips away from first person for a brief moment-a chapter-near the end of the novel.  It could be argued in both cases of the necessity of these diversions although I believe that the author could have found a way to keep on telling the story from Cyrus’ perspective and gotten the same point across.  I had few other quibbles when it came to the writing itself.  It was interesting that here in the third book about Cyrus that the story is as much about someone else, Blaze, as it was about him.  It added depth to the tale and made their relationship that much more compelling.

The Undead Ruins can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Undead-Ruins-Situation-Book/dp/161868471X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-2&qid=1433201326

Review of “Oil To Ashes Part 2 and Part 3″ by Lee Brait

Oil To Ashes continues with part two of this three novella story about Linc Freemore, a man living in a shattered society where the United States is at war with the Middle East.  It doesn’t matter if it is a single country or a coalition, all the reader needs to know is that Linc has worked tirelessly for a company providing supplies to the soldiers overseas while things have deteriorated back home.  Biker gangs are plentiful and the police are scarce.  There are terror attacks and bombings, while oil has diminished and everyone is desperate.  Part 1 took Linc out on a road outside the city where he attempts to save a woman who has been attacked by a biker gang.  He manages to escape, only to discover that the gang now knows who he is and wants to get revenge on him and his family.  Part 1 ended abruptly and Linc’s efforts to save his family are spotlighted here in Part 2, Oil To Ashes: Truce.  With a backdrop of a potential truce between the West and the Middle East, Linc is forced to do battle with more biker gang members who want to tear his family apart.

For such a short tale, there are ample twists and turns in this story, with a much larger backstory being revealed bit by bit, including how the biker gangs are associated with corrupt corporate officials who are interested in war profiteering more than anything.  Unfortunately for Linc, wherever he turns, he ends up getting buried deeper in the trouble he kicked off in part one.  A biker with a brother who wants revenge turns into a larger family looking for a way to either use or kill Linc.  Linc gets himself and those he loves into nearly impossible situations and manages to find a way out of them.  While it isn’t revealed what his background is, it is once again clear that he has some military experience dealing with life and death situations.

Part 2 ends as abruptly as Part 1 did, but fortunately Part 3 was immediately available for free on the kindle.

Oil To Ashes: Truce can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Ashes-Truce-ebook/dp/B00M5LSUMM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431386149&sr=8-1&keywords=lee+brait

Oil To Ashes: Warehouse wraps up this trilogy of novellas about Linc Freemore, a man who, on the surface, appears to be a working class everyday Joe caught up in a very bad situation.  It became pretty clear in Part 1 of the trilogy that he has to be ex-military with, as they say, ‘a very particular set of skills’.  Up to this point, he has gotten in and out of more trouble than even James Bond, and the threat of danger to his family is far greater than it has been.  The story has also come full circle, making much clearer who is behind the plot to destroy Linc and what forces are diametrically opposed to those who want him dead, though they have little interest in keeping Linc’s family safe, either.  Instead, they choose to use him to advance their cause against the corrupt corporate leaders who continue to profit off the war with the Middle East that appears to be coming to an end.

Much of this novella takes place in and around the warehouse that Linc must gain access to so he can fulfill his part of a dangerous bargain he made with people holding his wife and son hostage.  Yet again, he goes through perils that would kill most men, and yet does not reveal how he is capable of enduring such trials.  A desperate urge to protect ones family can only take you so far if you have no training to deal with combat situations and torture.  Still, this is an entertaining final chapter in this tale.  While this story is complete, there is a promise of more from the author with hints on how a new story about Linc might unfold.

Oil To Ashes: Warehouse can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Ashes-Warehouse-Freemore-Apocalyptic-ebook/dp/B00UY66YOG/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1431386149&sr=8-3&keywords=lee+brait

Review of Rachel Aukes’ “Deadlands Rising”

Deadlands Rising wraps up the Deadland’s trilogy.  Cash, Clutch, and the diminished group of close nit survivors that they call family are working on making it to the promised safe haven in New Eden, to the west of where they have been fighting to survive in Iowa for the bulk of the first two books.  New Eden is a fenced in community in Nebraska surrounding an old abandoned missile silo.  Marco, last of the squad from New Eden sent out to find survivors, promises to lead the group to safety behind its walls.

The first two novels of the trilogy followed the path of most zombie sagas with an equal mix of catastrophe and despair served up on almost every page.  This novel follows a slightly different track.  The author has modeled all three works after Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, with the first representing hell, the second purgatory, and this, the third book, heaven, or paradise.  The seven virtues laid out in Paradiso are laid out as section headings of this book, with the flavor of the third act is distinctly different from the first two.  Paradise is more of a wish than reality for the survivors, with the threat of the undead diminished, but never too far away.  The zombies have either migrated with the hordes to the south where it is warmer or have started to freeze solid in the bitterly cold Midwestern winter.  They are less of a threat and have been replaced with new dangers that are perhaps even more dire for the few living humans who remain.  I gave the author credit for crafting massive, almost unfathomable hordes of the undead churning up everything in their path in the previous book.  A slow moving, undeniable destroyer of all in its path was a concept I’d not seen used to effect in other zombie novels.  In the third book, she takes another intriguing result of a world ravaging plague and squeezes as much potential terror out of it as possible.  Wild packs of dogs, abandoned by their owners, have managed to survive by feasting on the dead-devouring the undead they could cull from the herd.  Infected with a variation of the plague, they do not turn but have the equivalent of rabies.  With as fervent a hunger as the undead and a bite that is equally lethal, they serve as both symbols of fear and tragedy.  Innocent, those not destroyed and devoured alongside their masters get to suffer a fate far worse than death, through no fault of their own.

Of course, rabid animals are not the only threat in the conclusion to this saga.  Facing a brave, or terrifying, new world in the aftermath of the plague is one of the biggest struggles the characters face.  What will happen and who will be guiding humanity’s attempts to rebuild are the daunting questions they must face, along with the consequences of the paths those who lead decide to follow.

The author does an excellent job of bring this story to a conclusion which should satisfy most readers…especially those who have likely grown weary of what I would dub the ‘never ending story syndrome’ that is rife in apocalyptic fiction and in other genres as well.  Authors who insist on leaving plotlines open and loose ends loose so more of the story can be told in either another trilogy or another book with no promise of completion.  Rachel Aukes wraps things up nicely here, with no loose ends.  While the author pulled no punches when it comes to how grim things got for the main characters, a spark of hope remained throughout the story, even when it threatened to be snuffed out for good on numerous occasions.

The connection to The Divine Comedy is, for the most part, in the background enough that someone unfamiliar with Dante’s masterpiece will not get distracted by it, though those who are familiar with it should appreciate the author’s efforts at sharing the zombified version of a journey through hell, purgatory, and the attempt to rise up into paradise.

Deadlands Rising can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Deadland-Rising-Saga-Volume/dp/1508583064/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

At Hell’s Gates Anthology Book Trailer

Not so long ago, I had the privilege of submitting a short story to the upcoming third installment in the ongoing series of horror anthologies called At Hell’s Gates.  I have reviewed the first two books, At Hell’s Gates: Existing Worlds and At Hell’s Gates: Origins of Evil (both reviews can be found here, on my blog).  I had a short story that I felt fit the theme of book three, At Hell’s Gates: Bound By Blood.  It’s a devious little short I entitled Little Lost Lamb.  Fortunately, it was accepted, and now I have the privilege of being a part of this charity project.

The proceeds from the sales of these books go to The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.  You can find out more about this worthy cause over on the At Hell’s Gates website: http://athellsgates.com/our-cause/ and donate directly to the cause.  Of course, the hope is that you’ll also buy a few copies of these anthologies.  If you are a fan of horror, they are worth checking out, plus you can feel good for contributing to a great cause as you read a series of twisted and disturbing stories.  And fear not, after the third volume is released, others will be coming, including future themes Fall of Madness and A History of Violence.  

More to come on Volume 3 once it is released-where you can get it, the finalized cover, etc.  But for now, I wanted to share with you a really killer book trailer covering the first three installments in this series.  I would expound further on how killer it is, but instead, I thought I would just share the link so you can go check it out on youtube without further ado: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6XbRnX1gvQ&feature=youtu.be

Review of “At Hell’s Gates: Volume Two-Origins of Evil”

At Hell’s Gates: Volume Two focuses on the theme of ‘Origins of Evil’.  The first volume was an anthology that served in many ways as an introduction to the world’s the contributing authors had created in their various novel-length horror series.  Many of the stories served as add-ons or addendums to those tales-they were short stories with a very large shadow looming behind them.  Volume Two has mainly standalone offerings from each contributor.

While I appreciate stories that add to a bigger world, there is something about the stand alone tale, especially in the horror genre, that makes it compelling.  Sometimes the smaller slices of hell are the most dark and make you despair the most.  That is why this volume has stepped up its game over the first volume.  So many of these stories sucked me in, chewed me up, and spit me back out.  Brutal like an assault in a back alley, they leave you dazed and curled up in the fetal position, whimpering and shivering in fear.

If purchasing this anthology was nothing more than an excuse to donate to a worthy cause, I’d have been happy to chip in.  The cause is an excellent one: The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.  But this anthology is also worth the price of admission because the stories on its pages are worthy of the investment, charity or no charity involved.

Here is a quick synopsis of each tale included in this work.

Pulse by Mark Tufo: A scientist builds a better mousetrap.  Well, a better way to kill bugs.  Unfortunately, it has an affinity for killing other living beings as well.

Cookies for the Gentleman by C.T. Phillips: A tale madness and desperation that spirals into a very dark, grim place for narrator…a place that threatens to suck the reader in along with him.

By Any Means Necessary by Evin Ager: An army grunt guarding terrorists at a secret military prison discovers the inmates are being used for some very unscrupulous supernatural testing.

History’s End by Frank Tayell:  The best intentions to save mankind from itself can have the most drastic, unforeseen consequences.

A Mother’s Nightmare by J. Rudolph:  Could you cope with the loss of all you hold dear?  What would you do if you were faced with crushing despair that comes with the destruction of all that you love?

Patient 63 by Stevie Kopas:  Infection transforms most of the world into subhuman monsters.  Humanity fights back, discovering a cure.  The question then becomes whether the infection is the villain or humanity itself?

Tyrannical Ascension by Shana Festa: We return to the author’s Time of Death zombie apocalypse series and are introduced to the man who would be king, or at least someone who has designs on such status in a world overrun by the undead.

Ink by James Crawford:  The world’s most elite tattoo artist creates his masterpiece on a living canvas.  The man blessed with this art is also cursed with an unquenchable desire to find the hidden meaning behind its dark beauty, to the everlasting despair of anyone who crosses his path.

The Man with Four Scars by Stephen Kozeniewski: Assures the reader that the undead have been with us long before Romero introduced them.  A caveman discovers a recently crashed meteorite and the strange effects it has on his tribe.

Daddy’s Girl by Ian McClellan: Reiterates the sage advice that it is best not to judge thy neighbor for their sins when you yourself are a sinner…even if your neighbor might be a malevolent supernatural being.

Operation Devil Walk by David Mickolas: That the Nazis sought out supernatural assistance to give them more power to defeat their enemies is well established.  Their hatred for Jews is undisputed.  The idea of combining those two things is horrific.

The Infected by S.G. Lee: A naïve young doctor falls for the manipulations of an ultra-competitive and ultra-sleazy coworker while working on experimental medical treatments that could extend the viability of organs used in transplants.

Forget Me Never by Sharon Stevenson: Fame is never everlasting.  Or is it?  Some are willing to kill for it and to even keep killing to maintain it.

Mirage by Sean T. Smith: A twisty, tragic sci-fi tale of giving up and giving in…when your goal is tantalizingly just out of reach…or is that perhaps just a mirage?

The Millstone by Lesa Kinney Anders: We all have our burdens.  It’s said that if you save someone’s life, you are responsible for them for them forever.  Is the same true if you destroy their life?

Genesis by Kit Power: How far would you be willing to go to show God how cheated you feel when you beg, plead, and pray for intervention, only get ignored time and again?

Lockdown by TM Caldwell: What’s a teacher to do when the dead have risen and are roaming the halls of the school?  Especially if you are on lockdown and you have a room full of panicked grade-schoolers to look after?

Collection Night by Curran Geist: How far would you go to protect your wife and child?  How dark could the nightmare become before you lost your nerve?

The Cold by Devan Sagliani: Life can suck.  Whether by your own doing or if you choose to blame everyone else for your failures, it can always suck just a little bit more…especially if you accidentally dabble with the supernatural.

A Different Cocktail by Claire C. Riley: Sure, I’d be skeptical too about a ritual that promises to bring forth a vampire master, but if you want to get lucky with a goth girl, why not partake in the ‘blood’ you’ve been offered that is supposed to summon him?  What’s the worst that could happen?

A Song to Sing in Babylon by Bobbie Metevier & Matthew Baugh: The old world is dying and change is painful…not only for the human race but those who have hidden in the shadows for generations.  Humans believe that God is punishing us while the others believe they are being rewarded with a world transformed into something more accommodating.  But what if they’re both wrong?

The Gouger by Paul Mannering: Somewhat reminiscent of the Stephen King short story, “The Mangler”, the Gouger is a grinder used to liquefy fish guts and anything else fishermen bring to the Makula Bay Fishing Co-op.  It’s also Tommy Malone’s favorite machine.  He loves to watch it consume and dreams of it consuming the world.

Overall, horror anthologies tend to be a mixed bag.  I tend to rate them on overall experience, though it often takes only one story that leaves me squirming in discomfort to satisfy me.  Naturally, not every story resonates with every reader, and for me this anthology was no exception.  A few stories just didn’t hit the mark for me.  With that said, the majority did, and I’m happy (or perhaps disconcerted?) to say that several left me squirming.  So this book is a double whammy: the proceeds are going to a very worthy charity and the book itself is a worthy read.

At Hell’s Gates: Volume Two can be found here:   http://www.amazon.com/At-Hells-Gates-Volume-Two/dp/1508448833/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 163 other followers